Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ministry of Naps

Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.” 1 Kings 19:5-6

I heard a preacher once say, taking a nap is sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do.

I used to hate taking naps as a child. I remember being in pre-school lying on the mat looking at the other kids who were knocked out. I wanted to get up and keep playing. Why did we have to take time out to take a nap?

When I got to college and pulled all-nighters, I appreciated a nap, especially during finals week. As a stay- at- home mom, I felt guilty taking a nap during the day. What if my husband called and said, “Whatcha doing?” Taking a nap. That just didn’t seem right. I needed to be productive. There were too many things to do.

But we are human beings, not human doings and God wants us to rest. In creation he created a Sabbath day, a day of rest. He knows our frames. He knows that we need time for restoration. We also need time for reflection and meditation. Then we can get a revelation from God. If you want to be really effective, sometimes we need to stop and take a nap.

Research has shown that naps—short periods of rest—are good for our health and lives. Some of the benefits include: less stress, increased creativity and productivity, improved memory and learning and lower levels of heart disease.

In the book 1 Kings, the great prophet Elijah was feeling down. As a matter of fact, he was downright depressed. He had just had the mountaintop experience of defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He had seen fire come down from heaven and then a downpour of heavy rain after years of drought. The prophet had experienced God’s miraculous provision through ravens and widows. His prayers were so powerful that he cried to the Lord and a boy was restored to life.

But after all of that, Elijah was still just a man. He was afraid of the evil Queen Jezebel and fled for his life. He sat under a tree and prayed for death. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

But then he fell asleep. An angel woke him up and gave him something to eat and drink and Elijah went back to sleep. The angel woke him up again and he ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

The lesson from Elijah: after great victories or hard work, we must take the time to rest. When God has something great for us to do, sometimes we need to be strengthened and we need time to prepare for the task ahead. It’s OK to be still and quiet before God. Activity does not always equal ministry.

The other day I was feeling a little down. I was not accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. My to-do list was getting longer and my Plan A had turned into Plan C. My desk was a mess, dishes were in the sink, and clothes on the family room couch needed folding.

My husband came home and said he was going to take a bath so I spruced up the bathroom for him. Another lesson: What you do for someone else, give it your best. You might find out you’re doing it for yourself.

Next time I came into the bathroom, thinking I’m checking on his bath, I find a bathroom with candles, roses, a card and my favorite candy. I soaked in the bubble bath that had been prepared for me, devoured my candy and fell asleep. I thought I had dozed off for a few minutes. It was actually almost an hour. But when I got up, I felt refreshed and when I woke up this morning I felt lighter and the day was brighter. That rest did wonders.

God wants us to enter his rest—his ultimate blessing for our lives. He has a rest for our souls. “This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16).

If we want real rest and peace that passes human comprehension, we must walk in His ways. Are you tired? Are you sick and tired? Maybe, like Elijah, you’re depressed. You’ve worked hard and it seems like your labor is in vain.

Jesus invites you to take a nap.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

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